When, at the beginning of a training cycle, I plug my training plan into my calendar and take an overview of the weeks about a month out from the race, I know it’s going to get tough. I know I’m going to have to take things one day at a time and accept the plan as it comes. It won’t be so bad, I think, I’ll be ready for it by then!
But now that I’m actually there, just a couple weeks out from the goal race, knocking down 15 milers and killing the 1000 meter repeats and clocking my heart rate at 80% and struggling to stay awake in the afternoons and running myself ragged trying to keep up with the rest of life…well… when I’m there, everything is different. The evil Self Doubt Gnome creeps into my brain and starts to run her mouth off.
What follows is a list of common phrases my self-doubt whispers into my ear. Hopefully by sharing my race anxieties I’ll be able to let them go. Use the comments to let go of your anxious thoughts too!
1. Is that an injury I feel?
Plantar fasciitis, runner’s knee and Piriformis Syndrome have a way of appearing like a monster in the closet somewhere around my peak mileage, just as taper is beginning. But after the next rest day or a good massage the light turns on, and I can see if the monster is real or not. And 99% of the time, the answer is no.
2. My quads/calves/hamstrings are going to peel off my leg. No, seriously!
I’ve been thinking this–and worse, visualizing it–for the past two weeks! And all the self-massage and foam rolling and yoga in the world isn’t helping this intense feeling that my quad is going to flip up like the dickey gag in that old Bugs Bunny cartoon. There’s no real danger, of course (see no. 1), but every goal race I’ve had there is one muscle that just nags at me mentally! But no, Cinnamon, have no fear. Your quads are not going to fall off your bones, they’re just getting stronger!
3. I’m not prepared enough!
I think it was Mint and Rosemary who taught me the phrase, “The hay is in the barn.” It fits very well and it’s become my mantra to beat the taper crazies. If you followed your training schedule, if you did the work, then it’s just a matter of toeing the line and putting one foot in front of the other. Our races are merely a product of the training we put in. When you look inside yourself you know when you haven’t prepared enough and when it’s just self-doubt talking. And right now, I know I’m in a good way.
4. I’m setting myself up for disappointment because I set my goal so high!
First of all, see #3 – the hay is in the barn. Second of all, whoa there! We all have bad days, and one race doesn’t define you. If you have a bad race, it’s okay, and if you don’t meet your goal, that’s okay too. There will always be another day. There will always be another run. After bonking at my fall marathon, I have learned my lesson and know that the most important part is that I give my best effort and enjoy the ride. Time goals are indeed important to me but they come second to my happiness, and as long as I try my best I know I’ll be happy with my performance.
5. What am I doing this for anyway? What’s the point?
What’s the point? WHAT’S THE POINT!? The point is having fun! The point is the time I spend logging miles, turning around the track, plotting and tracking my progress. The point is feeling healthy and strong. The point is the joy I find when a raincloud suddenly pours down on me at mile 5 when I’m feeling overheated and running into my friends at the park and turning around to spend a mile or two chatting. The point is watching the City change from frozen wasteland into buds and tulips and cherry blossoms. The point is the farmer’s tan that I earn, dammit! And if I had to give up PRing ever again to keep all the happiness I get from training, there would be no contest.
But the beautiful part is that I don’t! The hay is in the barn, I’m healthy and strong and I’m ready for the Brooklyn Half!
Wow, I really do feel better! If you think sharing your biggest race anxieties might help you feel better too, tell us about them in the comments!